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The composers who bridged the gap between the romantic and modern periods created some of the most interesting and memorable works in the canon. This exciting concert will feature works spanning the 20th century from Russia, France, and right here at home. You’ll also be treated to a virtuoso performance of Malcolm Forsyth’s accordion concerto by Ouartetto Gelato‘s Alexander Sevastian.
CONCERTO FOR ACCORDION AND ORCHESTRA
M. Forsyth (1936-2011)
DEATH OF JULIET
S. Prokofiev (1891-1953)
BACCHANALE FROM SAMPSON ET DELILAH
C. Saint Saens (1835-1921)
N. Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
THE SEA AND SINBAD’S SHIP
THE KALENDAR PRINCE
THE YOUNG PRINCE AND THE YOUNG PRINCESS
FESTIVAL AT BAGHDAD
South African born Canadian composer Malcolm Forsyth composed in the 20th century style, but found it of paramount importance to create music that was both easy and enjoyable to listen to, with a distinctive use of rhythm and orchestral palette that were the hallmarks of his style. He is quoted as saying “I have always have had a sense of responsibility to the audience … I am myself a dedicated audience member, dedicated to the idea of concert music that does sweep people away … Everything I’ve done is with that experience in mind.” Comprising both large orchestral and chamber works his concertos continue to be particularly popular, none more so than his work for Accordion, one of the few full length orchestral concertos ever written for that instrument.
It is perhaps fitting that Serge Prokofiev composed the ballet score for Shakespeare’s great tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Although Prokofiev’s immense talent and popularity had earned him the opportunity to leave Russia shortly after the revolution in 1919 he was constantly courted by the Soviet Regime to return and take his rightful place as a state composer. In 1936, after several successful visits he relented and settled his family in Moscow. Forced to adapt to his circumstances there, he composed several patriotic works and modified some of his earlier pieces to please the regime. His masterful ballet, Romeo and Juliet was among these. The composer had originally conceived of a happier ending for the two young lovers, having them exiled rather than allowing them to die, but Soviet purists decreed that this ending should revert to the original. This may be the only positive influence that Stalin and his cohorts had on the life and work of the unhappy composer. They censored his operas, jailed his wife, and ignored his death (which took place on the same day as that of Joseph Stalin). His brilliance, however has led to a great deal of posthumous acclaim, and is today he is considered to be one of the most popular composers of 20th century music.
Saint Saens’ Sampson and Delilah, based upon the biblical tale, is the only one of the composer’s operas that continues to be widely performed. It had its premiere in Weimar in 1877, having been rejected in Paris for its biblical subject matter. The exotic and suggestive Bacchanale is perhaps its best known excerpt, a showpiece in which Delilah leads a wild and provocative dance to tempt Sampson. Camille Saint Saens was a noted conservative and curmudgeon but his passionate writing, so evident in this frenzied, sensual work, suggests that perhaps his music was the outlet that he used to express his pent up imaginations and desires.
Scheherazade is the young bride of the Sultan, destined to die the morning after her wedding night. Indeed, following the infidelity of his first wife the Sultan has not let a single bride live past that first morning. Scheherazade disrupts this fate with her prowess as a storyteller. Each night she weaves a fascinating tale, promising to finish it the next evening, should the Sultan let her live. This cliffhanger lifestyle carries on for 1,001 Arabian nights until the Sultan, now enamoured of his brilliant wife agrees to let her, and all future spouses, live.
Rimsky-Korsikov wrote this symphonic suite in 1888 using the orchestra as the characters in his dramatic retelling. The Sultan is the burly voiced orchestra, Scheherazade herself is represented by a solo violin. She weaves her tales skillfully through the movements of the piece, looping in themes of each previous movement to the next. Finally our symphonic tales concludes with a conciliatory Sultan, forgetting to remind the executioner to return the next day, saving the young princess’s life.